Best in Show at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance this year was awarded to a 1924 Isotta Fraschini Tipo 8A owned by the Patterson Collection of Louisville, KY. The exotic-sounding Italian name should make it clear that this is a serious chunk of automobile, but not everyone knows just how serious. Though the name hasn’t matched the staying power of its peers, Isotta Fraschini was, back in the Roaring Twenties, the car one chose when a Duesenberg wasn’t ostentatious or extreme enough. Yeah, this car is that serious.
Back when the Duesenberg Model J was a high-level automotive object of lust that cost about four times the price of the average house, an Isotta Fraschini went for even more than that. These coachbuilt vehicles were the automotive equivalent of haute couture, sold as bare chassis and powertrains. The wealthy, high-profile buyers — among them, Clara Bow, Rudolph Valentino, William Randolph Hearst and Benito Mussolini — were free to select a coachbuilder to provide any body style that was desired. Even Rolls-Royce (who was also one of Isotta Fraschini’s competitors at the time) doesn’t get that bespoke anymore.
The Tipo 8A was introduced in 1924 as the successor to the Tipo 8. The chief difference was a much larger and more powerful engine. The car was a success among the glitterati, inspiring imitators and envy alike during the late Twenties and early Thirties.
Continue reading for my full review of this very special Italian luxury classic.